What if your child is overweight?Nov 18, 2022
What is the rumbling fear that you have in the back of your mind?
You know, the fear about what’s happening with your child’s weight.
What does it mean if your child is overweight or has a diagnosis of obesity? Even if they aren’t now…. I invite you to go there. Because, as parents who are worried about our kids’ weight, this what we are talking about: what’s gonna happen?
What will it mean to you if your child is overweight?
What will you think:
About your ability
About your job in parenting
About their health, now and in the future
About their ability to be healthy, do what they want to do, be accepted and loved in this world
How much of your own identity as a good parent is connected to how your children are doing? And when I say doing, I mean how they are learning, growing, changing, and specifically their weight.
How much do you truthfully think that you’re nailing it when your kids are doing well?
And then, you might be feeling a bit of concern that something is slipping as you see their weight creeping up.
What does it mean to you to be a parent of a child with diabetes, or obesity, or acanthosis?
Honey - let’s talk.
Your child’s weight has nothing to do with the job you’re doing as a parent.
Your child’s diagnoses and body have nothing to do with your success as a parent, nor with your success in raising healthy kids.
How can I say that?
Because let’s consider some other parents, parents you know:
Parents whose children have not been able to put on weight no matter what they feed them - they are still good parents.
Parents whose children have uncontrolled asthma, and are in and out of the hospital and on a bunch of medications - they are still good parents.
Parents whose children have cancer and are going through all the treatments - they are still good parents.
And parents whose children do not have diagnoses (because this is not specific to a physician making a diagnosis):
Parents whose children have bodies in all the shapes, all the sizes – we are all still good parents.
There is a collective BS about looking at someone’s weight and making judgments. It is all bullshit. It’s judgment about their worth, about their eating habits or attitude, and yes, about their parenting.
While we can’t snap our fingers and change others’ minds, we can start by addressing the judgments that we are holding of our own.
It is a challenge to change because we’ve been practicing this fat-shaming, body-hating, “need to be just over the 50%ile” (you know, because all of our kids are above-average) mentality for far too long.
We go from celebrating the chunky babies (oh you remember, celebrating that your child was at the 90th percentile was once something to share with others)... to now being at or over the 90th percentile is… what? Scary? Shameful?
Ask yourself… why? What is the difference between the baby with a Buddha belly, and the pre-teen with a belly?
We are using the same numbers, same measurements - the we celebrate at one age, and then completely use it against us as the kids get older.
And now that looks like we feel that we need to help our kids lose weight, or not gain any further weight, in order to say that we are good parents.
Or that we are raising healthy kids.
My friend, we can work on all the habits - more veggies, more water, enjoyable daily movement, more restful sleep…. But as long as we have the habit of tying our self-worth as a parent to our kids’ weight, none of it will be of any use.
How is YOUR self-worth as a parent tied to your child’s weight? To their diagnoses, or lack thereof? To their performance in school? To their social abilities? To their soccer skills? To their interest in getting off the couch?
We can’t do anything about it until we call it out for what it is:
We have tied our parental value and worth to things that are truly outside of our control.
First, let’s acknowledge it outright: our kids are NOT within our control.
((Gonna get some pushback there))
But kids-as-property, kids-as-clones, kids-as-representation of our parenting skills… that’s BS.
We are raising humans. And humans are not machines, they are not clones. And… we all have value and worth that is inherent, meaning that it is not tied to other people’s outcomes - to other people at all.
Our kids are amazing. And they have challenges and struggles. That does not mean that we aren’t doing our job as parents. Whether your child has weight struggles, picky eating or emotional eating, mental health challenges, run-ins with the law – it does not have to mean ANYTHING about you.
Take a moment there.
Your child being valedictorian is about them, about what they have accomplished. You can celebrate them. But it does not reflect upon you.
Your child not having diagnoses is… kind of a bland example. But again, it doesn’t mean anything about you or your self-worth.
So, when your child is diagnosed with overweight, or diabetes…ask yourself, why do you make it mean anything about the job you’ve been doing?
My answer: it’s the collective socialization of tying kids’ outcomes to parental abilities. Which is ultimately BS.
It’s BS because we can see all the examples of how that isn’t true.
When our kids are struggling, how do we want to support them, be there with them, and take care of ourselves along the way?
That is parenting: nurturing, supporting, raising.
Parenting is not: helping your child lose weight so you can tell yourself you are a better, good, successful parent.
Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!
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